• Katy Gardener

Chinese Lanterns

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

I always associate the start of October with the arrival of Chinese Lanterns. My mother in law gives everyone in the family a large bunch from her garden, and they decorate our homes until Christmas. Not only do the warm orange lanterns look gorgeous in the garden, adding much needed colour to the beds at this time of the year, but when bought inside the delicate papery lanterns create the best kind of dried Autumn arrangement.

The official name for Chinese Lanterns is the Physalis alkekengi. They are native to Southern Europe and Southern Asia but despite originating from warmer climes, Chinese Lanterns are a hardy perennial that thrive in the UK. In the summer they produce tiny cream flowers which are followed by the orange lanterns in September and October. By November they die back to below ground level, making way for fresh green growth appearing again in the Spring.

dried chinese lanterns
Dried Chinese lanterns in situ on our new fireplace

Once established Chinese Lanterns thrive year in, year out needing next to no maintenance. Be aware though that they can get overzealous! It is recommended to prevent the spread of underground stems by cutting around the centre of the plant with a spade once they have died back.

How to take care Chinese Lanterns

  • Grow in full sun or partial shade, (read: anywhere!)

  • Plant in any kind of well-drained soil

  • Cut around the crown of the plant every November to prevent over growing

  • Be aware that they can colonise a flower bed, so if space is an issue they work well as container plants, but need lots of feeding and watering to thrive.

You can buy established plants this month, already laden with lanterns. Just make sure to keep an eye on them over the winter, protecting them where possible from the frost. This time next year they should come back thick and strong.

My week

This week it really feels like we are settling into our new home. There are still pictures and blinds to be hung but it feels more and more like we belong here. From slightly panicking about taking on too much with a baby, a new house and a puppy, I feel I turned a corner this week and am growing to really love little Gretel. That said she has tested me!

In her first week she insisted on gorging herself on poisonous damsons from our garden, so every morning I was sprinting outside, baby in hand to pick them up before she scoffed them. Invariably every time the wind blew more damsons would fall so, I couldn’t avoid her getting a few each day.

Once the damsons had all fallen, Gretel's next focus was to eat her way through a telephone wire in the kitchen. Luckily the wire was not live as she would have fried alive! Not satisfied, Gretel went on to eat one of Bertie’s socks. It wasn’t just a case of chewing it and spitting it out, no, she ate the sock whole. I had a few anxious days inspecting her toileting and was highly relieved to see that after three days the sock ‘passed.’ Poor Jack had to inspect the evidence just to make sure, but as we’re now pretty good at changing nappies it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been.

puppy and baby
Joint 'sit' training

Whilst the Gretel sagas continue, she is learning to sit and stay, and she is the prettiest thing! She’s also incredibly gentle with our boy, and I very excited to watch the two grow up together.

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